The KNX Elevator Speech

By Ian Richardson, Chairman at KNX National Group Australia

People in management and marketing often promote the virtues of the ‘elevator speech’ or ‘elevator pitch’. This brief, usually one-sided conversation is designed to provide a short description of a product, company or idea is such a way that the listener can gain an understanding in a short period of time. The goal of the elevator pitch is to convey the overall concept or topic in a simple but exciting way and to do so in the time of a typical elevator ride, which could be as little as 15 to 30 seconds.

So how could we develop an elevator speech on KNX? KNX is an advanced, powerful protocol that has the capacity to work in multiple building disciplines. To describe a KNX system in a brief statement could be seen as a challenge. Albert Einstein famously stated: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. So let’s keep it simple.

A KNX expert in the UK, Mark Warburton from Ivory Egg, expressed a very simple analogy stating to imagine a common language that allows two people who have never met to immediately communicate. Each person could have specific expertise in their respective field far beyond the person they are communicating with, however they ‘talk’ in a simple language only covering the necessary information applicable to the other party.

In reality, KNX is much more than a single language, having the ability to communicate with many languages and protocols. The ability of KNX to cross the boundaries of language and discipline is one of the major advantages of a KNX system. For example, KNX has the ability to speak to multiple blind or shutter motors in one data line well in excess of the capability of SMI (Standard Motor Interface) which supports up to 16 motors on a single data line. KNX can also ‘talk’ with DALI systems and this provides flexibility in the lighting control segment of the building automation system. The communication also allows BACNET into the conversation so in large projects where BACNET could be the preferred option in the main HVAC system, applications.

Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”.

You could say that the early developers of KNX adopted this philosophy by making KNX an event driven protocol. The ‘conversation’ between devices, irrespective of the application, is only made between the devices that need to be involved in the conversation. A blind controller is not required to be involved in a discussion between a light switch and a dimmer for example. The network is not troubled with polling of devices that requires unnecessary data traffic. The ‘conversation’ between parties in the system is kept to a minimum but clearly understood. In the real world we could represent this as a conversation between different nationalities of people who all have a specialist knowledge in different fields and differing mother tongues, yet they are able to speak to each other in a single language and be immediately understood.

In the KNX world this conversation is occurring between multiple manufacturers and vendors, utilizing an array of products and applications, across many different building management disciplines in projects as small as an apartment up to complex commercial buildings, hotels and airports. Through KNX – it works!

To para-phrase Confucius, keep it simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated.

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